NASHVILLE—The book publisher’s building is large, modern-looking, and intimidating. There is a mirror-like finish on the outside.
There is an intercom by the front door. Before getting inside, you must present a valid ID, a birth certificate, the blood of a sacrificial ram, and five years of past tax returns.
No, I’m only kidding. The intercom is probably for weeding out crazy people.
Which is why the most important thing to remember when speaking into this intercom is to relax and be yourself so the receptionist doesn’t think you’re a crazy person.
I mash the button.
“Hello,” I say, using a 17th-century British female accent. “I am not a crazy person.”
The voice says, “Do you have an appointment?”
The door unlatches with a buzzing sound. And I am inside the HarperCollins building. This place is fancy. Tall ceilings, big windows. There’s a pianist in the lobby playing “Moon River” on a six-foot baby grand piano.
Again, this is just a joke. He’s actually playing “Red Sails in the
I am greeted by Alecia and other members of her team. We all exchange hugs. Alecia says, “Thank you so much for being here.”
This seems to be the phrase of the day. I hear it a few hundred times from many nice people.
These are book-people. Their lives revolve around books. Anything you can imagine doing to a book, they have already done it. They eat, sleep, and bench press books.
They think in complete paragraphs that are virtually typo-free. Some copy editors even do double air quotes with their fingers before and after every sentence they say.
There are cubicles everywhere. People at computers. Bookshelves. Coffee makers.
The walls are lined with posters featuring some famous book covers. And these posters all leave you struck with the feeling that pretty much all people in the Western world—including…